On good Friday night I shamefully managed to exhibit everything that is wrong with the Western Church.
Things had begun well. The previous Friday we as a church had broken into smaller groups to celebrate passover in various homes. I have participated in passover meals a number of times before, but this time I was particularly struck by the symbols in the meal that implicitly points towards Jesus suffering during his last days.
We then met as a Church on Good Friday to watch The Passion of the Christ. People were asked to arrive, watch and leave in complete silence. Being good Friday we ended the film before the resurrection. As the movie is a long one, we asked people to bring their own comfortable chairs and cushions.
I offered my seat to someone and found myself being the only person in the room sitting on the uncomfortable metal seat. As Christ moved onscreen through his passion, I found my mind drifting back to my stiff seat, my back began to hurt, I began to fidget, and I found myself casting covetous glances at those around the room reclining comfortably on cushions, and couches. A little voice in my head began to whisper “why do you have to sit on the worst seat?”
The scene began where Christ is scourged, and my selfishness dawned on me. Christ was being tortured for my sins, enduring the most unimaginable pain for humanity, walking towards his gruesome death, and I was worrying about my backside being comfortable, and like a five year old jealously coveting a more comfortable chair. In some small way I was modeling what has become of contemporary Christianity.
We sit and watch detached as Christ moves through his passion, all the time worrying about our own personal comfort. The pew is transformed into extra comfortable stadium seating, and under someone’s seat is a token for a give away for a Wii. In the back of our mind is the thought that somewhere there might be an even more comfortable seat, in a more happening church.
As I watched I sat and decided to forget about my comfort, instead I watched prayerfully, taking in all that Christ bore for me. Soon any thought of uncomfortably was gone, I was lost in the enormity of the idea of God coming to earth and being tortured and killed by humanity, and the miracle of turning that loss into a victory of forgiveness.
I was struck by the character of Simon of Cyrene, compelled against his will to carry the cross with Christ, who in The Passion of the Christ walks with Jesus during his suffering, who bears Christ’s cross literally. Simon of Cyrene through the process is transformed, he is moved from the role of a reluctant bystander into a participant in Christ’s suffering and redemptive act.
As I reflect on what it will take to again remind our culture of Christ’s work on the cross and the good news of his emergence from the tomb on Easter Sunday, I can’t help but wonder if we need to swap our contemporary fixation on comfort and entertainment, and to rediscover something seemingly old fashion, but more needed than ever, devotedness.